SECTION 4 is a community media gathering exhibition and installation on Section 4, which is the legal situation people find themselves in when their asylum application fails and they await deportation. It was shown in Bristol, UK in summer 2007, and included this DVD, with video operation by Siobhan McKeown, video editing by Helen Grant, interviews conducted and sourced by Ale Fernandez (and sometimes Siobhan), all recordings done in and around Easton, Bristol
My name is Ale Fernandez. I got that name in Italy (short for Alejandro) because I'm a citizen of that country, but I was born in Chile and together with my parents and an older brother we left the country the year after the military coup of 1973. My family was welcomed in Scotland as a refugee and I felt proud to be part of such a mixed and accepting society. The high unemployment rates of the 80s meant we left for Italy, from where I returned an EU citizen to study at University in Scotland, and then later on moved to the city of Bristol in the South West of England.
Ever since arriving to Bristol, in 2003, I had performed at Refugee week. The first time as a solo guitarist before the ending celebration, then in a project together with Colombian artist Juan Gabriel and two Zimbabwean aslyum seekers Cecilia and Fidelis. Cecilia used to play in a huge famous zimbabwean band that toured the world, and got refugee status so got to study music technology at Bristol City College. Fidelis didn't get his visa so got stuck back in Zimbabwe, and was one of the people whose house was then bulldozed. The song we all wrote together was beautiful and mixed the andean folk tinged chilean music I got through my parents, and the zimbabwean rhythms they brought, in a great combination of rhythmic 6/8 and dancing 4/4 on top of it. The crowd loved it, made us play it again and we played the final slot at the end of that refugee week.
That winter some friends were deported. They had come from Santa Cruz in Bolivia, but had tried to stay longer, after a new president was elected, so that the military groups who had burnt their house down were supposedly no longer a threat. At some point a bureaucratic nightmare, around a relatively normal life in Easton, turned into a complete horror - by the last days they were afraid to even peer out of the windows for fear of the immigration department turning up to deport them.
So for the following refugee week I followed up with SECTION4 - this was my first exhibition, although I had been organising other musical events, workshops and cross media events - it was a media gathering exercise in Easton, Bristol mostly. I put up ads, got some numbers, asked lots of friends and went out to interview people who knew something or had an opinion about failed asylum seekers. I had been researching the idea of performance and social justice and I ended up at a Bristol Defend the Asylum Seeker meeting, where as I joined them, they were describing a local woman's housing situation, her illness and her small child, as well as the fact she was stuck there with no news, waiting for the vans and helicopters to come and take her away. She said - "if only we could take them and show them!" And that's when I knew that whatever I did, it had to be about failed asylum and the loophole in human rights that's dictated by a UK law. This law is in force now, punishing people - especially the most vulnerable - single mothers and families because of what that law denies them.
"You will not receive any money. You will be given somewhere to live and will receive vouchers you can use to buy essential items such as food and toiletries, and in some cases you may be given housing where your meals will be provided."
I spoke to clinical psychologists, to the head of a mosque, a local liberal democrat councillor, I received a poem from an exiled Iranian, I interviewed the BDASC, I spoke to refugees, to asylum seekers, to failed asylum seekers, and to Father Mac Gregor, somewhat of a local hero. He described in detail the process of deportation both in general and as he had experienced it personally when he ended up in prison in the course of giving sanctuary to a failed asylum seeker who was to be sent to her death in Uganda.
Then both at the Pierian Centre and at the Easton Arts Trail I put the exhibition up collecting all this information in lots of different ways, I printed up information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, about the various organisations that help migrants and interviewed lots of the people at refugee week - Cezara, a human traffic researcher from Kosovo, and George, a speaker for Bail for Immigration Detainees, and some representatives from a local Somali community organisation. During the exhibition, I showed the video with most of the interviews I'd done.
Also, during Refugee Week before my weekend at the Pierian Centre, I already had access to the exhibition room, so I brought a box I had gathered, full of things left behind when my Bolivian friends had been deported. I had taken my part along with all their other South American friends, and we all promised to sell what we could and send our friends the money. All I was left with by then was a phone charger, a multiple electricity socket, a broken record player and things like that. I left them displayed in that empty room, a half empty rucksack by the door with a label SECTION 4, next to my account of what had happened.
At the end of the exhibition it became very obvious that although it was important to give the information on the DVD, sound booths and information boards, the most powerful piece had been that empty room.
Rights10 Failed asylum seekers: accommodation
(1) At the end of section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (provision of
accommodation for failed asylum seekers, &c.) add—
“(5) The Secretary of State may make regulations specifying criteria to be
used in determining—
(a) whether or not to provide accommodation, or arrange for the
provision of accommodation, for a person under this section;
(b) whether or not to continue to provide accommodation, or
arrange for the provision of accommodation, for a person under
(6) The regulations may, in particular—
(a) provide for the continuation of the provision of accommodation
for a person to be conditional upon his performance of or
participation in community activities in accordance with
arrangements made by the Secretary of State;
(b) provide for the continuation of the provision of accommodation
to be subject to other conditions;
(c) provide for the provision of accommodation (or the
continuation of the provision of accommodation) to be a matter
for the Secretary of State’s discretion to a specified extent or in
a specified class of case.
(7) For the purposes of subsection (6)(a)—
(a) “community activities” means activities that appear to the
Secretary of State to be beneficial to the public or a section of the
(b) the Secretary of State may, in particular—
(i) appoint one person to supervise or manage the
performance of or participation in activities by another
(ii) enter into a contract (with a local authority or any other
person) for the provision of services by way of making
Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 (c. 19)
arrangements for community activities in accordance
with this section;
(iii) pay, or arrange for the payment of, allowances to a
person performing or participating in community
activities in accordance with arrangements under this
(8) Regulations by virtue of subsection (6)(a) may, in particular, provide
for a condition requiring the performance of or participation in
community activities to apply to a person only if the Secretary of State
has made arrangements for community activities in an area that
includes the place where accommodation is provided for the person.
(9) A local authority or other person may undertake to manage or
participate in arrangements for community activities in accordance
with this section.”
(2) In section 166(5) of that Act (regulations: affirmative instrument) before
paragraph (a) insert—
“(za) section 4(5),”.
(3) In section 103 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (c. 33) (support for
asylum-seekers: appeal) as it has effect before the commencement of section 53
of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (c. 41)—
(a) after subsection (2) insert—
“(2A) If the Secretary of State decides not to provide accommodation
for a person under section 4, or not to continue to provide
accommodation for a person under section 4, the person may
appeal to an adjudicator.”, and
(b) in subsections (6) and (7) for “section 95” substitute “section 4 or 95”.
(4) In section 103 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (support for asylum-
seekers: appeal) as it has effect after the commencement of section 53 of the
Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002—
(a) for subsection (1) substitute—
“(1) This section applies where a person has applied for support
under all or any of the following provisions—
(a) section 4,
(b) section 95, and
(c) section 17 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum
(b) in subsection (4)(a) for “the other provision” substitute “another of
those provisions”, and
(c) in subsection (7) for “subsection (1)(a) or (b)” substitute “subsection
(5) In section 103A of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (appeal about
location of support) in subsection (1) (and in the heading) for “section 95”
substitute “section 4 or 95”.
(6) In an amendment made by this section a reference to providing
accommodation includes a reference to arranging for the provision of
Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 (c. 19) 13
(7) Regulations under section 4(5)(b) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
(c. 33) (as inserted by subsection (1) above) may apply to persons receiving
support under section 4 when the regulations come into force.